Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Second Impressions of Return of the King


Last year I wrote an article, 11 Things I Didn't Remember About the Two Towers. It's fascinating to read through a book for a second time and glean more than you did from the first reading. It's also fascinating, since I see the LOTR movies more than I read the books, to compare the differences and discover portions that the scriptwriters didn't fit in.

The Return of the King this February was no less a delight. After the somewhat dark experience of reading The Two Towers, I was surprised by how bright and shining and easy it was to whip through ROTK. This time I also read through the appendices to get an expanded glimpse into Tolkien's world. I read all of them. A-F. Because if you want to do something, you might as well do it big.

Here are some things I learned from Return of the King. If you haven't read Tolkien, this article will probably be confusing, so I direct you to the library to pick up a copy for yourself.

Ghan Buri Ghan
Did not remember he even existed. Had no clue, and when he showed up I was like O.o. He's a fierce little fellow in charge of a secretive people who helps King Theoden's troops find a safe route on their way to rescuing Rohan. I loved the drums, but I'm still not sure that Ghan Buri Ghan really fits into Tolkien's world.

Prince Imrahil
I didn't remember him, either. He's sort of in charge of Gondor in the midst of all the traumatic happenings (playing it safe and avoiding spoilers here). He seems like the nicest, bravest chap ever, and I was pleased to make his acquaintance.

Counsel before the last battle. 
I could almost weep with the parts filmmakers cut from this section. I'm not a purist and I love the films, but there are a couple of parts I mourn the loss of. Gandalf, Aragorn, Imrahil, etc. are all gathered to discuss "What shall we do about Sauron." It's an incredible portion of counsel and comfort before the climax of the book. That our responsibility is to battle the evil of our generation. Their evil will be for them to battle, and is not ours to control--but we must remain faithful and engaged in the fray for the sake of bettering their world. Inspiring words.

Aragorn's white cloak. 
It's a tiny detail, but it struck me every time it was mentioned. A white cloak, clasped with a great gem of green. Can you imagine how striking that outfit must have been? Also, the Field of Cormallen sounded like a haven for the soul. I didn't remember they spent a whole month there. It's a paradise in Middle Earth, and I dearly wish I could go there for vacation.

Please be warned that this next one is a major spoiler, and if you haven't read the book, you should not, SHOULD NOT read it. 

Frodo seeing his destination. 
As I approached the last chapter of ROTK, it was brutally exhausting to anticipate. It brings you to tears anyway, and after some hard goodbyes, I wasn't looking forward to more trauma at the hands of a fictional story. But one section of it I found extremely comforting. First of all, that Gandalf sent for Merry and Pippin to travel home with Samwise, and second, that we see a glimpse, albeit brief, of Frodo arriving at his destination. After watching the movie I thought we just saw him sailing off into the sunset. But the white shores and far green country made me feel in a way that I didn't have to say goodbye. And that was beautiful consolation.

End of major spoiler.

And now for my favorite parts of the Appendices:

Appendix A: Southern Line/Kin Strife and Castamir the Usurper 
When you're reading long lists of names (similar to 1st Chronicles) keep going. Tolkien tucks in fascinating little references to history amongst the names. It reminded me of Watson in the Sherlock Holmes stories when he refers to past cases. In Tolkien's case, one wants to know: "what was the kin strife?" "what happened during the ten years of Castamir the Usurper?"--and the good thing his, he proceeds to tell you, so you're not left with maddening curiosity.

Appendix A: The History of the Dwarves 
A couple of years ago I had the great privilege of a personal history tutorial in Tolkien's dwarves from a friend. It was an epic season of learning and left me incredibly moved and interested in their culture. They have such a savage, broken kind of beauty, an iron strength, and a history just as glorious as elves and men. In Appendix A, I was able to revisit the dwarves' struggle of trying to win back their homeland. I highly recommend reading this portion, if nothing else. It makes me wish Tolkien had written an entire lengthy book about the dwarves, similar to the Silmarillion for the elves.

Appendix C: The Genealogy of Samwise 
The Hobbit genealogies are adorable with their funny names (Chica Chubb, anyone?). In each different chart, Tolkien goes through the lines of the Baggins, Tooks, Brandybucks, and Samwise. The line of Samwise had such sweet names and nicknames, coupled with so many good memories, that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Appendices D-F left me scratching my head in despair and concern. Tolkien goes to great length explaining how calendar disputes among men and elves were resolved. I'm sorry, I love Tolkien, but calendar disputes in a fictional world are going further than I can follow. Also, Appendix E is only for the most die-hard fan, and your life can be complete without reading it. It's about diphthongs and spellings and stress marks. Studying Greek last year helped, but it was pretty dry wading.

There you have it! I now have two readings of the Tolkien trilogy under my belt. Next in the Tolkien lineup is finishing the Book of Lost Tales Part 2, so keep your eye out for that this year. :)

Did you forget any of these things in ROTK? What are your favorite parts of this book?


1 comment:

  1. I'm glad I wasn't the only one who found Ghan Buri Ghan a little...odd. :P

    I actually don't remember Aragorn's white cloak and I just read the book! Re-reads are so fun. I can't wait to re-read the LOTR trilogy. :) Then I can pick up on all the details I missed.

    Ahh, a "haven for the soul". That is the perfect description of the Field of Cormallen.

    The book definitely gives you much more time with the characters-and a proper farewell to them all! I love that part you highlighted about Frodo. It certainly feels more comforting in the book than in the movie. Although, I do love the movie's ending. It's so beautiful.

    I haven't yet read the appendices (except for Aragorn and Arwen's story) and I can't wait to. Sam's genealogy! I definitely need to read that soon. :)

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